Taking Up the Call to Social Gospel Ministry

We were blessed this past Lord’s Day to observe Orphan Care Sunday here at Morningview.  The testimonies were excellent, the worship was very meaningful, and it was a joy to explore with you the theological basis and practical outworking of Christian adoption through the sermons.

During my Sunday evening sermon, one of the points of application I made for us regarded the importance of raising up the next generation to be responsible for caring for those in need.  During the last century, the church has surrendered numerous aspects of social ministry to the secular state, thereby divorcing itself from ministry opportunities where the gospel is critically needed.  In specific regards to orphan care, we often see unwanted, abused, or neglected children as the problem of the state rather than as an opportunity for the church to demonstrate the love of Christ.

While a single church cannot solve every social ill (nor should we try), every church should recognize that the only One who can break cycles of addiction, poverty, abuse, neglect, and entitlement is Christ.  The only real hope for people and the only means of true change is the gospel.  So when we surrender the role of caring for the needy to the state, we cut off our opportunities to facilitate real change and have eternal impact through the preaching of the gospel to those in need.  Remember the words of Christ; He warns us that one of the fruits of true faith is our care and concern for those in need:

“But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne.  And all the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.  Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’

“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You drink?  And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? And when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’  And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’

“Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ Then they themselves also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’  Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’  And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matt 25:31-46)

Given this reality, it is important that we be more intentional about social ministry.  We never want to “do” social ministry simply as an exercise of moral duty.  We must feed, clothe, help, and care for others, but we have not truly “helped” someone in need if we have not also explicitly communicated to them the gospel of Jesus Christ.  At the same time, offering only the gospel without some practical, biblical assistance can also be unloving.  Truth in Love is the goal.  Embodying the Person of Christ is the goal.

As we seek to bring glory and honor and praise to Him, how can we communicate His love to the Orphan?  To the widow or the single mom?  To the homeless person?  To the prisoner?  To the addict?  To the impoverished family?  How can we take the light of Christ into the dark places to bring hope to the hopeless?  I love you all dearly!